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#986

Henri de Ceredigion
Participant

Chapter Three: Preparing the Feast / Chapitre Trois: Préparer la Fête

Over the course of the week before the meal was due to be served, Henri brought the various gifts he would present to his friends and as he did, he noted that each day was getting colder and colder and on the eve of the eve of Christmas as he was entering his digs, a snowflake landed on his nose and as he turned around and stood in the doorway a light snowfall started over the city of Paris.

The following morning, Henri woke up as the sun rose and opening the windows of his room he gasped in amazement. The whole of the city was covered in a white blanket and as Henri leant on the windowsill he was instantly transported back to the last time he had seen freshly fallen snow.

He had just turned eight years old when he woke up to a while world at his home in England and after being dressed in his warmest clothes he dashed out and spent the whole morning examining this strange material that was covering the ground. It was white, much whiter than anything his mother would make, it was cold, even colder than his father’s wine and it was very wet, so wet in fact that he had to stand in front of the roaring fire for an hour to dry out.

As Henri watched the children of Paris throwing balls of snow at each other, part of him wanted to join them but the other part knew that he had a duty to perform, even so that snow did look remarkably interesting and so ten minutes later the children of Paris had a new target who jumped out of his front door and yelled “Look at me, I’m a target” for the next twenty minutes Henri forgot all his cares.

Dusting himself down from the snowball fight which he ended with a noble “My fellow combatants, the English musketeer cadet salutes you” which earned him a snowball at the base of his back, Henri set about the meal helped by Planchet who had just arrived with the last of the ingredients.

First of all was to gather all the ingredients together and then apportion them for the various dishes that would be cooked and so it was almost lunchtime when that task was finished and master and servant looked at the table in front of them heaving with food they both looked at each other and said “Poome du Poop?” and they both nodded.

***

The Poome du Poop was famed throughout Paris for its connection with the Musketeer corps. Everyone who had owned the inn since the day it was built was either a former Musketeer or a manservant of a member of that corps and as Planchet and Henri entered to a hearty “Hail the Musketeers!” he breathed to his master, “One day, this shall be ours, master!”

Henri had found out by sheer luck that every Christmas Eve, the inn’s policy of welcoming only Musketeers was extended to those who had served or were in the process of being trained and as Henri sat down at a table, he was surprised to see one of his friends as the waiter.

“Hello there, Pierre” he said, smiling, “What are you doing here?”

“Helping out” replied his friend originally from Normandy and now in his third year of training and explained that he had found out a couple of weeks earlier that all the cadets were asked if they would like to work at the inn on Christmas Eve, “and so here I am. Now, may I take you order please?”

“A mug of beer for my manservant” replied Henri, “a mug of fresh milk for me” and then raising his voice he added “and a hearty Joyeux Noel to you all!”

“HUZZAH!” cried the inn as Henri chuckled and explained that Athos had told him that when a group of Musketeers get together they’ll use any excuse to down a few mugs of ale.

As master and servant drank their mugs, Henri looked at the gathered Musketeers and started to daydream. Yes, he was English by birth and yes, technically would never be able to become a Musketeer in the truest sense of the word but in the fifteen months he had been training and serving alongside his friends he relished the day when the King would tap him on the shoulders and confer the honour of being a formally commissioned Musketeer officer. And when that day came, he would stand tall, raise his sword and proclaim that motto that resonated through all time.

“ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL!”

“Aye lad” said a voice, breaking into Henri’s train of thought, “but we don’t do it on the tops of tables” and was followed by raucous laughing.

Henri blinked and realised that he was now standing on top of his table with his sword raised high and looking like a complete idiot. Sheepishly, he clambered down and said to Planchet “Meal time?”

Planchet nodded with a smile.